Lissy Goralnik

Lissy Goralnik

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Assistant Professor
Department of Community Sustainability


I am an assistant professor in environmental studies and community engagement in the Department of Community Sustainability. I am also affiliated with the Center for Gender in a Global Context (GenCen) and the Environmental Science and Public Policy (ESPP) program. Broadly my work lies in the areas of environmental ethics and experiential and environmental learning. I use the tools of qualitative social science—interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, participatory methods, ethnography, text analysis—to explore relationships, learning, and engagement with self, communities, and place. I have a PhD in Fisheries and Wildlife from MSU, an MFA in creative writing from the University of Idaho, and a bachelor’s in English from Stanford University. I also worked for years as a field educator for wilderness leadership schools and my academic work on experiential learning reflects this training and practice. For my dissertation work I studied a wilderness ethics field course I developed and taught in Isle Royale National Park, exploring the ways care for place and community develops or shifts as a result of a community-focused environmental ethics and place-based ecology curriculum. Prior to returning to MSU I was a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Forest, Ecosystems, and Society at Oregon State University, where I primarily worked in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest on projects related to arts, humanities, and environmental science interactions.

Current projects include:

  • Arts, humanities, and environmental science collaborations: Empathy and sense of place
    • Discovery Trail place-based digital interpretation for middle- and high-school learners
    • Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) Network place-based collaborations and art-science show visitor impacts
  • Experiential learning and community engagement in sustainable food systems: Changemaking, STEM identity, critical sustainability agency
  • Contemplative practice and resilience (individual, community, ecological)
  • Research experiences for undergraduates (REU): STEM identity and retention
  • Public food ethics: Community engaged food waste conversations
  • Urban agriculture in the greater Lansing area: Governance and ecological citizenship 
  • Classrooms Take Charge: Community engaged carbon and climate learning for middle school learners

MSU classes:

  • CSUS 200: Introduction to Community Sustainability
  • CSUS 301: Community Engagement
  • NSC 292: Applied Environmental Studies, Contemplative Practice and Resilience

On the scale of the individual, I’m interested in how learners, problem-solvers, and environmental citizens develop ethical awareness, identity, motivation, and engagement with each other, landscapes, and environmental or sustainability issues. Toward this end I study things like sense of place, empathy, STEM identity, well-being or resilience, participatory virtues, and environmental citizenship. My educational research focuses primarily on affective outcomes, the emotional and moral connections learners develop to ideas, learning environments, and environmental-problem solving.

Through applied research I aim to contribute to and work with communities toward positive change. My work at the community scale focuses on effective engagement with diverse communities, they ways knowledge is shared across communities, and the kinds of community dynamics that enable people to come together to work toward positive change. This includes teaching and learning about the responsibilities of participating in community, as well as facilitating student work with community partners, and then researching this process. I also work directly with community partners—teachers, nonprofits, community organizers, farmers—toward shared goals related to sustainability ethics and engagement.

Finally, my work at the landscape scale focuses on appropriate relationships with the natural world, and the ways we—as individuals and communities—learn to listen to and respond to the needs of place. I work in socio-ecological systems resilience, whereby we try to understand the nested health and well-being of individuals, social systems, and ecological systems. I collaborate with ecologists and animal scientists to make connections between ethical learning, community development, management practices, and environmental health.


Full-text copies of my papers are available on my ResearchGate site:

Goralnik, L. and Nelson, M.P. 2017. “Field Philosophy: Environmental Learning and Moral Development in Isle Royale National Park.” Environmental Education Research, 23(5): 687-707. doi: 10.1080/13504622.2015.1074661.

Goralnik, L., Nelson, M.P., Gosnell, H., and Leigh, M.B. 2017. “Arts and humanities inquiry in the Long-Term Ecological Research Network: Empathy, Relationships, and Interdisciplinary Collaborations.” Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 7(2): 361-373. doi: 10.1007/s13412-016-0415-4.

Goralnik, L. 2017. “Digging to Ascend.” The Turnip Truck, 3(1), Summer. Nonfiction.

Jager, C., Nelson, M.P., Goralnik, L., & Gore, M. 2016. “Michigan Mute Swan Management: Exploring the Conservation Ethics of Invasive Species Management.” Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 21(3). doi: 10.1080/10871209.2015.1129679

Goralnik, L., O’Connell, K.B., Schulze, M., & Nelson, M. P. 2016. “H.J. Andrews Forest Discovery: A Conceptual Framework for Interdisciplinary Interpretation and Empathy Development.” Proceedings of the 2015 Symposium for Experiential Education Research (SEER), Portland, OR. 30-34. seer booklet.pdf

Goralnik, L., Nelson, M.P., Gosnell, Hannah, and Ryan, Leslie. 2015. “Arts and humanities efforts in the US LTER network: Understanding perceived values and challenges.” In R. Rozzi, F.S. Chapin, J.B. Callicott, S.T.A. Picket, M.E. Power, J.J. Armesto, and R.H. May Jr. (EDs.), Earth Stewardship: Linking Ecology and Ethics in Theory and Practice (pp. 249-269). Springer, Berlin.

Goralnik, L. and Nelson, M.P. 2015. “Empathy and Agency in the Isle Royale Field Philosophy Experience.” Journal of Sustainability Education.

Heinrich, B., Habron, G., Johnson, H., & Goralnik, L. 2015. “Critical Thinking Assessment Across Four Sustainability-Related Experiential Learning Settings.” The Journal of Experiential Education 38(4), 373-393. doi: 10.1177/1053825915592890.

Goralnik, L. “Otter Dance.” 2015. ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 22, 647-665. doi: 10.1093/isle/isv046 [research-based nonfiction]

Goralnik, L., Ferkany, M., Thorp, L. & Whyte, K.P. 2015. “Philosophy in the field: Care Ethics, Participatory Virtues and Sustainability.” Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities, Volume 1(3), Special Issue on pedagogy in the environmental humanities. JSTOR.

Goralnik, L. “Idol Worship.” Soundings Review, Winter 2015. Nonfiction.

Goralnik, L., Dobson, T., & Nelson, M.P. 2014. “Place-Based Care Ethics: A Field Philosophy Experience.” The Canadian Journal of Environmental Education 19, 180-196. 

Goralnik, L., Thorp, L., Rozeboom, D., Thompson, P. 2014. “Storytelling Morality: Ecofeminism, Agrarianism, and Pigs in the Field.” The Trumpeter 30(1), 15-32.

Goralnik, L, and Nelson, M.P. 2014. “Field Philosophy: From Dualism to Complexity Through the Borderland.” Dialectical Anthropology, Special Issue: Non-Anthropocentric Conceptions of Nature 38(4), 447-463. doi: 10.1007/s10624-014-9346-1.

Goralnik, L. “Foredune.” 2014. Fourth River: A Journal of Nature and Culture. Chatham University: Pittsburg, PA. Issue 11, spring 2014. Nonfiction.

Goralnik, L., Vucetich, J.A, and Nelson, M.P. 2014. “Sustainability Ethics.” In Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices, Ed. Deborah Rowe (pp. 319-327), Detroit: Macmillan Reference. Encyclopedia essay.

Goralnik, L., Millenbah, K., Nelson, M.P., & Thorp, L. 2012. “An Environmental Pedagogy of Care: Emotion, Relationships, and Experience in Higher Education.” The Journal of Experiential Education 35(3), 412-428.

Habron, G., Goralnik, L., and Thorp, L. 2012. “Embracing the Learning Paradigm to Foster Systems Thinking.” International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 13(4), 378-393. 

Goralnik, L. & Nelson, M.P. 2011. “Framing a Philosophy of Environmental Action: Aldo Leopold, John Muir, and the Importance of Community.” The Journal of Environmental Education, 42(3), 181-192. 

Goralnik, L. & Nelson, M.P. “Anthropocentrism.” 2011. in Callahan, D., Chadwick, R., Singer, P., eds. Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics, 2nd ed. London: Elsevier. Encyclopedia essay.

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